Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom

Honey-Wheat Crescent Rolls (New Recipe #104) December 30, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 12:33 PM
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Baking homemade bread is quickly becoming my new cooking obsession. The smell, the taste…it is simply addicting to a carb-lover such as myself. The time it requires, however, keeps me from bread making most days. But the recent ice storm, which resulted in an unexpected four-day stretch at home, gave me plenty of time to break out the yeast and make some dough. After my Honey Wheat Bread turned out so well, I felt inspired to try this WeightWatchers Honey-Wheat Crescent Rolls recipe from the WeightWatchers New Complete Cookbook (2006 edition).

 

I used my KitchenAid stand mixer rather than a food processor to complete step #2 in the directions below. My dough hook is my new best friend! It simplifies the bread-making process a great deal. An added bonus: it is fun to watch in action.

 

Rolling the dough into crescents was easier and quicker than anticipated; the rolls were rising on the baking sheet in very short order. Thanks to their small size, they also baked quickly in the oven. While I doubt that I will make homemade rolls on a regular work night, it was nice to discover that they are a feasible task for a weekend.

 

I served the crescent rolls with a slow-cooker turkey chowder from the same WeightWatchers cookbook. That turkey chowder was the first recipe I ever made when I initially went on the WeightWatchers program six years ago, and I have made it at least once every winter since then. The rolls went well with the chowder and were a solid 3 stars. They were not show-stoppers, but they were tasty — which is about the best that can be expected from a “diet” bread recipe. The crescents were best served warm from the oven on the first day; the leftovers were not near as soft and flavorful.

 

Honey-Wheat Crescent Rolls

1 cup warm (105-115°F) water
2 TB honey
2¼ tsp active dry yeast
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1½ tsp salt

1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the water and honey; sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In a food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, and salt. With the machine running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube; pulse until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until smooth.

3. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray; put the dough in the bowl. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.

4. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Punch down the dough. Sprinkle a work surface lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the surface; cut in half. Roll each half into a 10-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Roll each wedge, from the wide side, and form into a crescent. Place, pointed-end down, on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, arranging the rolls 1 inch apart. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until they double in size, about 35 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls until they are golden brown and sound hollow when lightly tapped, about 15 minutes. Remove the rolls from the baking sheet and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 roll). Per serving, 3 PointsPlus.

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Squash Casserole (New Recipe #97) December 6, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 3:52 PM
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Roasted squash is one of my favorite vegetable sides, and I prepare it often as a quick-but-tasty accompaniment to many a main entrée. Almost a year ago I came across this Squash Casserole recipe in a WeightWatchers magazine. I eagerly copied it down, happy to have a possible alternative to my regular roasted squash side. I finally made the casserole last month when John’s parents were in town for a few days. I served the casserole as a side to my slow-cooker chicken chili and a batch of homemade cornbread.

 

Several months back, I shared the casserole recipe with my mom, who was looking for new WeightWatchers recipes to prepare in support of my dad’s commitment to the weight loss program. She was underwhelmed when she made the recipe, reporting that it turned out rather bland. With this in mind, I sprinkled in some dried oregano and cayenne pepper along with the salt when sautéing the squash on the stove. The other alteration I made was to cook the casserole loosely covered in foil for the majority of the baking time. I feared that the panko would be burned to a crisp if I left the dish uncovered as directed. If I could do it over again, I would still use the foil, but I would remove it with 10 minutes left on the timer rather than 5.

 

With the changes I made, the recipe earned 3 stars. I especially liked the creaminess of the squash and the presence of the breadcrumbs. It was not so fantastic, however, as to regularly warrant the extra time and steps required to make it over my regular roasted squash, but on occasion, it will make for a nice change.

 

Squash Casserole

Cooking spray
7 cups sliced yellow squash and zucchini
1½ cups chopped onion
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup light sour cream
½ cup (2 oz) reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¾ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add squash mix, onion, salt, and pepper; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in sour cream and cheese.

3. Spoon squash mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish* coated with cooking spray. Top with panko; coat panko with cooking spray. Bake at 400˚ for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about ¾ cup). Per serving, 3 PointsPlus.

*Alternate serving suggestion: Use 6 small ramekins to make individual casseroles. Check the ramekins after 15 minutes in the oven, and remove the casseroles when they turn golden and bubbly.

 

Thai Shrimp Curry (New Recipe #90) November 27, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:01 AM
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When I patronize a Thai restaurant, there is a 95% chance that I will order the green curry. My older brother, Tom, took me to my first Thai restaurant several years ago while I was visiting him in San Francisco. He recommended the green curry, which I ordered, and which I loved. Ever since that lunch, I have attempted to duplicate the deliciousness of my first green curry–hence why I order it at nearly every Thai restaurant I frequent. (So far, no other green curry has lived up to the first. And it likely never will, as I most certainly have inflated the memory of it in my mind.)

 

My husband also enjoys Thai food, and he is similarly predictable in what he will order at a Thai place: Pad Thai or a fried rice dish. He, once or twice, has had a bite of my green curry, and then promptly turned down additional offers for a taste. Curry is not his favorite. Hence, when I decided to try my hand at making my own green curry for the first time, I knew John would not be overly thrilled. I debated telling him that it also was a recipe from the WeightWatchers 15-minute Recipes magazine, as learning that it was a diet green curry recipe with shrimp (not his favorite protein source) might have sent him straight to the closest fast food joint for his dinner. Luckily, I have a sweet husband who is willing to try most dishes at least once. I told him the plans for dinner. His face said, Really? but his lips said, Okay. I love my dear husband.

 

I made the curry in my wok, and it could not have been easier or quicker. I highly recommend using the fresh basil leaves! They added lots of flavor to the dish. I served the curry in bowls over cooked rice. I gave the curry 3 stars, as it definitely tasted like a light version of restaurant curry, but it also was surprisingly good for a “diet” recipe. I, of course, liked it better than John, but he said he’d be willing to eat it on occasion. Next time I am in the mood for curry and our restaurant budget is low, I will reach for this recipe, no question.

 

Thai Shrimp Curry

Cooking spray
1 (16-oz) package frozen steam-in-bag Asian vegetable medley, thawed
2 TB Thai green curry paste
1 (13.66-oz) can light coconut milk
1½ lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Fresh basil leaves (optional)

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add vegetables; sauté 2 minutes. Add curry paste; sauté 1 minute or until fragrant. Add coconut milk. Bring to a boil; add shrimp. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 4 minutes or until shrimp reached desired degree of doneness and sauce is slightly thick. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1¼ cups)

 

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry (New Recipe #89) November 26, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 7:27 PM
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Earlier this fall, I was on the hunt for quick and easy weeknight dinner options when I stumbled across this WeightWatchers Thai Chicken Stir-Fry recipe, which is advertised as “super quick, super tasty.” Quick and tasty? Sold!

 

The list of ingredients numbers an even ten, which is an easy enough amount to prepare and assemble. The recipe also is cooked in a single pan (I used my wok), which equals quicker clean-up time.

 

For the Asian hot sauce, I substituted sweet red chili sauce, and I used fresh Italian basil leaves. I served the stir-fry over jasmine rice, as suggested, and I would second that recommendation. One major item to note: slightly steam the green beans first! They were very squeaky, even when left on longer to cook than the stated 2-3 minutes.

 

Despite the chewy green beans, the recipe still earned 3.5 stars. It was rather delicious! It was my first time to use fish sauce, and the smell of the sauce had me doubting the recipe while it sizzled on the stove. Yet the final product was tasty enough to warrant a second batch on yet another busy weeknight of the school year.

 

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry

1 TB vegetable oil
1 lb uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
1 medium uncooked scallion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups uncooked green snap beans, each sliced into 3 pieces
1 TB fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp Asian hot sauce, such as chili paste (I used sweet red chili sauce)
½ cup fresh basil leaves, Thai or Italian

1. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add oil and swirl to coat pan. When hot, add chicken; sauté for 3 minutes.

2. Add scallions and garlic; sauté until quite fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add green beans, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and chili paste; sauté until green beans are crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add basil and cook for 1 minute more.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1½ cups). Per serving, 4 PointsPlus.

 

Cranberry Pumpkin Bars (New Recipe #86) November 17, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:56 AM
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Continuing on my pumpkin kick of late, one evening last week I made up a batch of Cranberry Pumpkin Bars. I found the recipe on WeightWatchers.com, and after the success of the WeightWatchers Pumpkin Oat Bread, I was eager to try these bars.

 

I made one small deviation from the recipe, using 1 cup all-purpose flour and ¼ cup whole-wheat pastry flour instead of just all-purpose flour. A little whole grain thrown in is never a bad idea, in my opinion!

 

The bars turned out more cake-like than their name implies. In fact, I kept referring to the leftovers as “Cranberry Pumpkin Bread.” The first evening I tried these, they were good but not anything too special, earning 3 stars. But the second day, they had become much more moist and I had to up their rating to 3.5 stars. They make for a great autumn dessert to serve alongside after-dinner coffee or hot tea, but they are also good at breakfast or for a snack during the day.

 

Cranberry Pumpkin Bars

1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 TB reduced-calorie margarine, soft, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/3 cup buttermilk
1¼ cups all purpose flour
1½ cups uncooked old fashioned oats
1 TB pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp table salt
2/3 cup dried cranberries

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray, then dust lightly with flour.

2. In a large bowl, cream sugar and margarine with an electric mixer; beat in egg, egg white, pumpkin, and buttermilk.

3. In medium bowl, combine flour, oats, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Stir into pumpkin mixture just until moistened, then add cranberries and mix gently.

4. Spread batter in pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until center springs back when gently pressed. Cool and cut into 18 bars.

Yield: 18 servings. Per serving, 4 PointsPlus.

 

Pumpkin Oat Bread (New Recipe #85) November 12, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 10:03 PM
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Each fall, pumpkin seems to take over the grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants just a little bit more than the year before. While I normally would roll my eyes at such a runaway trend, I have to grant an exception for pumpkin. I eat a ridiculous amount of pumpkin treats throughout October and November, and e-mail alerts with the word “pumpkin” in them set my heart to racing. One such e-mail from WeightWatchers a few weeks ago had not one but SIX pumpkin recipes! My printer got a workout that day as I immediately perused and printed every single one. The first of the recipes I tried was this Pumpkin Oat Bread. The online reviews were promising, and I was wanting a baked treat to send to work with John for his UIL Lit Crit team meeting.

 

I made two slight alterations to the recipe. Instead of the walnut halves, I sprinkled finely chopped walnuts across the top of the entire pan. And I only had 1 can of pumpkin on hand, which is a little shy of 2 cups, so I added a little bit of unsweetened applesauce to make up the difference.

 

Upon my first bite, I knew this recipe was a keeper. The bread was incredibly moist, and it did not taste like a diet-friendly recipe thanks to the inclusion of regular butter in the ingredients list. Both John and I rated the recipe a strong 4 stars! The bread works as a dessert, an afternoon snack, and a breakfast baked good. I will be making this Pumpkin Oat Bread at least once every fall, even when the pumpkin trend has fallen away and I have to dig to the back of the grocery shelves to find a can of pumpkin.

 

Pumpkin Oat Bread

1 spray cooking spray, flour-variety recommended
½ cup regular butter, softened
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups canned pumpkin
¼ tsp table salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, or more to taste
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups uncooked quick oats
2½ tsp baking soda
24 half walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 10- X 15-inch baking dish with cooking spray. (I used a 9 X 13.)

2. Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and pumpkin; beat well. Add salt, pumpkin pie spice, flour, oats, and baking soda; mix thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and place walnut halves on top so there will be 1 walnut in the center of each piece of cake. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes.

3. Cool in pan and cut into 24 pieces.

Yield: 24 servings. Per serving, 4 PointsPlus.

 

Curried Lentil and Rice Salad (New Recipe #82) October 27, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 3:07 PM
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Lentils are little, tasty morsels of nutrient-rich food. Yet I rarely eat them! Why? It’s not for lack of appeal, but rather for the simple fact that I have very few lentil recipes in my repertoire. And the few I do have are soups – until now. This lentil salad recipe from the WeightWatchers 15 Minute Recipes magazine is destined to be a part of the regular meal rotation in the Pierce household.

 

When reading through the recipe prior to making it, I was worried about the curry and vinegar being too strong. As a result, I decided to halve the dressing. This move indeed kept the salad from being too vinegar-y, but it also made the lentil-rice mixture a little dry. Next time, I may aim for ¾ of each of the dressing ingredients and see what results.  The recipe below includes the original ingredient amounts.

 

To boost the protein of the salad and turn it into a complete meal, ready to be packed for a weekday lunch, I mixed in cubed, cooked chicken breast. I found the salad tasted best at room temperature, but it is also good chilled.

 

With or without the chicken, the salad was delicious. John, especially, raved about it for days afterwards. Two months later, he still asks me when I am going to make it again! The recipe earned an enthusiastic 4 stars from us both.

 

Curried Lentil and Rice Salad

1 (8.5-oz) pouch microwaveable precooked basmati rice
½ cup golden raisins (I plumped mine before adding them to the mixture.)
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 (17.6-oz) package refrigerated precooked lentils (I found this at Trader Joe’s.)
1 TB curry powder
2 TB roasted garlic rice vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil

1. Microwave rice according to package directions; place in a large bowl. Add raisins and next 3 ingredients; toss gently.

2. Combine curry powder, vinegar, and salt in a small bowl. Slowly add oil, stirring with a whisk.

3. Pour dressing over rice mixture; toss gently. Serve immediately, or cover and chill 2 hours.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 2/3 cup). Per serving: 5 PointsPlus.